Vuvuzela vs. Sound Engineer: Has the World Cup Stadium Horn Met Its Match?

A technological fix may cancel out the collective roar of the plastic horns.

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DISCOBLOG: By Joseph Calamia

Though these multicolored horns might look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, World Cup followers can attest that the vuvuzela is a loud and droning reality. South Africa’s soccer stadiums are resounding with their buzzing calls, driving TV audiences to distraction and causing many a viewer to reach for the mute button.

Some spectators have called for bans on the instrument, but FIFA has refused. Its president, Sepp Blatter, said via Twitter: “I don’t see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country. Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?”

But there may be a technological fix, an audio filter meant to cancel out, acoustically, the collective roar of the plastic horns.

The Telegraph reports that German recording and mixing engineer Clemence Schlieweis believes that viewers can cancel out the sounds blaring from their televisions by playing his 45-minute track of an “inverse” sound wave. He made the sound by manipulating a recording from a match broadcast, and compares his technique to ones commonly used by sound engineers to improve recordings’ quality, to remove the buzz of an air conditioner from an interview, for example.

But some acoustics experts are skeptical, given that the vuvuzela’s sounds are anything but uniform. Trevor Cox at the University of Salford, told The Telegraph:

“I can’t see how it could work. The vuvuzela chorus may come across as a single sound on television, but it is actually hundreds of instruments being blown at different times.”

But if Schlieweis’s recording can’t beat the vuvuzela, another technology is allowing spectators to join the chorus. The vuvuzela iPhone app is the number one downloaded free iPhone app in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, France, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Netherlands, UK, and South Africa, with reportedly over one million downloads.

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